It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2017. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
The award for Comeback Fighter of the Year came down to the very last vote, but the individual to take home the honors this year is former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
What exactly is Comeback Fighter of the Year? It is quite simply a fighter who had fallen on tough times, but managed to get themselves back on rack. Based of that criteria, dos Anjos is the runaway winner.
After losing to Tony Ferguson late in 2016, dos Anjos knew he had to make a change. The former lightweight kingpin was but a shell of his former self at 155 pounds. So, the Brazilian decided to move up a weight class, a move that many MMA prognosticators thought was tantamount to career suicide.
Dos Anjos took the first six months of 2017 acclimating his body to his new weight class. At UFC Fight Night 111 in June, the welterweight division would be put on notice as dos Anjos made his 170-pound debut. He absolutely ran through a division mainstay in Tarec Saffiedine.
RDA would follow up that performance with a quick turnaround at UFC 215 against a step up in competition, Neil Magny. Magny would prove to be no problem for dos Anjos, as it took less than four minutes for the former lightweight kinpin to put Magny to sleep.
Those two impressive performances alone would not be enough to earn the title of Comeback Fighter of the Year. The Brazilian closed out the year with a career-defining performance against one of the sports all-time greats, Robbie Lawler. UFC on Fox 26 saw dos Anjos execute one of the best individual performances in recent memory, masterfully picking apart the outmatched Lawler for 25 minutes.
Many fighters had rebound years in 2017, but none topped what dos Anjos was able to do in his new weight class. He may well be the next person to hold two titles in two different weight classes.
Other finalists: Georges St-Pierre, Rose Namajunas
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2017 MMA Award winners.